Guide to Better Public Speaking

There are many situations in life when talking in front of an audience cannot be avoided. Oral exams, presentations or graduation make many of us feel stressed and nervous. The fear of public humiliation is a common reaction when talking about performing a public speech, but the association between the two can be broken. Here are some tips to help you to gain confidence and speak better.

1. How to prepare yourself for your speech
A presentation is not a poem. Memorizing your speech or reading it straight off of the page will make your presentation very unnatural, as well as make it more difficult for you to speak freely and to express your personality and feelings. A better choice is to write down the key words of your presentation on a piece of paper not bigger than your palm. Then you can look at them any time while talking and your thoughts will collect around those main points. If there is no set dress code, wear nice looking clothes that you feel comfortable in. Make sure that your shoes are not too tight and your clothes allow you to move freely without discomfort.

2. How to overcome stage fright
When giving a presentation, it is completely normal to feel nervous. If public speaking is out of the ordinary for you, there is no need to try to act like a professional. The audience notices whether someone is an experienced speaker or not. Break the ice by confessing that you are inexperienced and nervous. Smile and assure the audience that you are doing your best. On the one hand, everybody is going to see how honest you are by not trying to act like you’re something that you simply are not. On the other hand, a confession like this makes your level of nervousness drop quickly. It is also helpful to strain and to relax your muscles a few times before entering the room or stage. Every time your muscles became strained, breathe in and exhale to relax them.

3. Begin well, end well
A dynamic beginning establishes the trust of the audience. Before saying anything, square your shoulders. It will help you to breathe properly, which is important if you feel nervous. Also take the time to look at your audience, whether you know them personally or not. Do your best to maintain eye contact during your speech as well. By looking at the people in the audience, you draw them into your topic. Be sure to welcome the attendees and define the main points of your presentation confidently. End your speech similarly; sum up briefly what you were talking about and thank everyone for their attention. Also, offer them an opportunity to ask questions and to allow you to clarify any points they did not understand.

4. Be as serious as needed
A presentation about abortion or domestic violence demands a serious attitude. There is no place for jokes or wide smiles. But talking about an experience at school or presenting a new idea at work should not necessarily be that serious. Topics like these call for a smiling face. Everybody likes listening to someone who is cheerful and who seems to be happy to be sharing.

5. Ask questions
Asking questions keeps the audience interested, even if you are the one who answers them. It makes the audience feel more involved. There is a big difference between “He left because he felt betrayed,” and “So why did he leave?” *short break* “Because he felt betrayed.” Questions can convey more vivid emotions than simple statements. Feel free to alter your voice tone as needed when asking questions in order to better communicate your message .

6.What if you make a mistake?
It happens to everybody, so don’t feel embarrassed. If you realize that you misspoke, just correct yourself and excuse yourself for the mistake. However, if you realize your mistake twenty minutes later, just let it be. Going back to that point will only get your thoughts mixed up. If someone from the audience notices your mistake and refers to it after you have finished, then you will have the opportunity to correct yourself at that time.

7. What if you cannot answer a question?
Again, it happens to everybody. Instead of making something up or grabbing at straws, just admit that you do not know. Get the questioners email address and assure them that you will get back to them with the answer as soon as possible. Then be sure to follow up!
The next time an occasion for public speaking presents itself, consider implementing some or all of these steps, and you may be surprised to learn that you are a better presenter than you ever could have imagined!

Zsofia Schindler is a freelance writer. To contact her email her at [email protected]

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